Help, I’m Iron Deficient

Simple solutions for Low energy and Iron levels

Q: I’m a business owner and single mom after a recent divorce. I feel more exhausted than ever lately. My iron has often been low in the past, but typical over-the-counter or prescription iron pills make me really constipated and I refuse to take them.  What can you suggest for my iron and energy?


A:  Being fatigued is a common concern in our modern world of perpetual busyness.  Many things can lead to fatigue and low energy, including imbalances in internal biochemicals and hormones, nutrient deficiencies, environmental factors, etc.  Understanding what is really at the root of the fatigue is important for optimal recovery.


Chronic high stress, such as owning a business, a divorce, or Toronto traffic, can really tax the body’s nervous system and adrenal glands (the stress response glands).  A daily practice of mindfulness to journal, meditate or engage in deep breathing work is one of the best habits to adopt.  When super busy, it’s difficult to think of having any spare time in the day, but truthfully, most of us can carve out a mere 10 minutes daily to ‘just BE’.  Studies show that daily mindfulness practices actually improve energy, stress response, focus and productivity. In addition to this, adaptogenic herbs such as Ashwaghanda, Rhodiola, and Relora can be wonderful to help the body adapt more efficiently to stress and improve vitality. They help balance, restore and protect the body.


Addressing a known nutrient deficiency, like iron, is extremely important.  Natural health supplement companies provide many options that are well absorbed and gentle on the digestion.  The following three forms are my particular preference. Heme iron supplements are considered the best in absorption and recognition by the body. Heme iron is the form found in animal products, i.e. red meat, and thus not vegan/vegetarian friendly.  Iron bisglycinate, is a non-heme iron that has a high bioavailability and minimal intestinal disruption.  In this form, iron is bound to the amino acid glycine, which also contributes to healthy red blood cells as it supports the synthesis of haemoglobin.  Whole food iron supplements such as those in a base of, or sourced from beets, curry leaves or nutritional yeast, are a great option that naturally provide the supportive nutrients, vitamins and minerals that improve the absorption and use of iron.  In all the above options, I suggest a product that also has ingredients such as Vitamin C, B12, and folate to optimize the bioavailability of iron in the body.


Another tip is to avoid overindulging in coffee, as it can tax adrenal function further.  However, I can appreciate that sometimes an extra pick me up is necessary. In such situations, try sipping on a matcha tea or latte for a more balanced alternative to coffee. Matcha is a powdered green tea that is vibrant in colour due to its high chlorophyll content.  It packs a whopping amount of antioxidants and the amino acid L-Theanine, which increases alpha brain wave activity that leads to a sense of calm, alertness and improved mental focus.


Dr. Michelle Pobega, ND, runs a naturopathic practice near the Annex neighbourhood of Toronto. Stay connected with her at, Facebook and Twitter @MPobegaND


Categories: Ask The Expert